Picnic at the park

This past Sunday, along with my sister and her husband, I went to the Spring Picnic of the church in a nearby town, and it is always in one of the city parks. It was a very interesting day, not only because of the difference in the food, but also because all the signs for the various booths were written in Czech as well as German and English. As a for instance auction in Czech is Aukce and in German it is Versteigerung! This was a big change for me as you can well imagine.
As for the food, it was delicious but again different. They don’t serve barbecue at very many of the church picnics; they serve what is called picnic stew, and, they never serve potato salad and pinto beans*. Usually prefaced with the words “Shiner’s famous picnic stew”, or “Hallettsville’s: famous picnic stew” or one of the other small towns. This is meat that is stewed in big batches, sometimes seasoned and with some gravy and sometimes, just seasoned with peppers, onions, tomatoes etc. (It is not the type of stew you serve at home with potatoes and carrots). It generally tastes pretty good, especially if they haven’t overcooked it, which is something that can happen. They other two meats they serve are fried chicken and sausage. They do not serve pinto beans in any form, seasoned green beans are most always the order of the day along with buttered potatoes, and almost all of them serve sauerkraut. Sunday,as per usual, there were picnics at two different churches, the one I attended and the other in the next town over. The difference in the menus was that the other one also had cornbread dressing with their fried chicken. Otherwise the menu was the same. The food is served in large containers and you serve yourself.
They have the usual craft booths and I have never seen so many displays of jewelry as what there was there yesterday, some of it very beautiful, most of it priced very reasonably, but with some pieces being rather expensive. Of course, there were many handcrafted items of blankets, bibs, etc., etc. They also had the usual bingo, cake booth, fish pond for the children, as well as ring toss, baseball throw and more. Since my brother-in-law gets around with a motorized scooter, we went separately so I could check where it would be easiest to get him out of the vehicle. A very kind worker showed me where she needed to be and then she could park elsewhere. (I’m not sure, but I think it was at least four blocks away, so she had a good walk to get her car). I was lucky; I was able to park only 1½ blocks away. While waiting for her them, I checked out a few things and got our meal tickets. Once they arrived, we went inside and stood in line for our food and found a good spot to eat and people watch. Since they have lived in this area since the late 1970s and I’ve lived here since 2006, we get to see some of our friends and neighbors.
They have local bands playing in various locations, throughout the day and we stayed inside the air-conditioned hall to hear one of them. It is called “The Shiner Hobo Band” and they are dressed in a mish mash of unmatched clothing, ‘patched’ overalls, lots of bandanas, work boots or shoes and some of them with hats. The dancing and music went on for a couple of hours and while they mostly played old fashioned Czech and German oompah music, they did play several more pieces that were more modern. And, of course, there was a dance that night that charged admission; we did not stay for that, as by 4:00 p.m., we were ready to head home!
*The only time you find pinto beans if a scout group or group of students or the golf club, etc., serves barbecued chicken or pork steaks, and this is served with the beans and dirty rice, not potato salad!
May I also add that the famous Shiner Beer that is brewed right there in Shiner, TX was one of the beverages being sold, along with many other brands and so were soft drinks, and bottled water. Later in the afternoon, there was a booth selling hamburgers, and, since I wasn’t interested in anything else to eat, I have no clue if any other type of food was being sold!
Zucchini is a small summer squash, which belongs to the species cucurbita pep. It can be yellow, green or light green and has a similar shape to a cucumber. On a culinary level, zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked. But, botanically, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower. Blossoms from zucchini can be eaten fried, using a tempura batter, stuffed, sautéed, baked or used in soups. (In the past, I have given you a recipe for the fried zucchini or squash blossoms).
The first records of zucchini in the United States dates to the early 1920s and it was almost certainly brought here by Italian immigrants and probably first emerged in the United States in California.
Zucchini are usually picked when the seeds are soft and immature, preferably not over eight inches in length. Many people feel that the bigger the better and I have seen them given away in a huge size. They can grow up to three feet long but are not very appetizing at this size as they are fibrous and have large seeds.
Zucchini is almost always served cooked, but they are good also cut into sticks or slices and served with Ranch dip. They can be baked, steamed, boiled, grilled or fried and they are delicious any of those ways. They can also be used to make a bread that is similar to pumpkin bread, and, a lady told me the other day that she had pickled several jars. I have heard of doing this but have never tried it. Now, it is also being used in place of spaghetti in recipes and you can purchase it cut in a spiral fashion into long strands. I have not used it this way, but several of my friends have and say it is delicious this way.
If you feel you need more information, just Goggle the word zucchini and you will have a surfeit of information, as when I did it, there were over 15M sites!
According to everything I have been hearing, zucchini is in season and totally prolific as zucchini usually is! The joke that I have heard over the years is that you can count who your friends are if they still open their doors to you, knowing you have a garden that contains several zucchini plants. Now, if your friends are bringing you more zucchini than you can consume, here are a few recipes to help you dispose of them. (No, none of them involve the garbage disposal!). My oldest daughter has been taking some of their excess zucchini to the kitchen at the Assisted Living facility, where she visits our cousin, and the ladies there are happy to have the fresh vegetables.
The first recipe is from my daughter, Virginia; someone brought it to her office for lunch. She says it is really very good. The rest are some recipes of mine that have been in the paper before.
Squash Casserole
2 pounds steamed squash (cut them into pieces and steam with just a little water)
4 medium carrots (cut into circles and steam)
1 chopped onion (medium size)
1 chopped green pepper (medium size)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
1 package herb stuffing mix
1 stick margarine, (melted)
Stir together squash, carrots, onions, green pepper, soup and sour cream in bowl. Mix melted margarine and stuffing mix together and put half into the vegetables and stir together. Place in 13×9-inch pan and sprinkle remaining stuffing mixture on top. Bake at 350ºF for 40 minutes.
Stuffed Zucchini
4 zucchini (6-inches long)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 cup canned, chopped tomatoes, drained
½ cup plain bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped black olives
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
¼ cup chicken broth
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise and hollow out, leaving a 3/8-inch shell. Coarsely chop the zucchini and onion and mince the garlic. Set aside while you heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add the zucchini, onion and garlic to the skillet. Stir together , cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until tender. Add the tomatoes and cook, covered, 5 minutes longer. Uncover and stir in the bread crumbs, olives, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Stuff the zucchini halves with the filling and place in a shallow baking dish. Pour the chicken broth over the zucchini and bake 30 minutes in preheated oven until tender.
Fried Zucchini
Salt and pepper (or seasoned salt)
Cooking Oil for deep frying
Wash and slice the zucchini into even slices about ¼-inch thick, or cut into small chunks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper or seasoned salt, (I used some Julio’s® seasoning the other day when I made this and it came out really well). Allow to stand a few minutes, and then dredge in flour until well coated. Next, dip slices into milk, and then back into flour. Fry a few at a time until golden brown and tender. Serve hot with Ranch Dressing to dip the slices into if desired. Mmmm!
You will need a simple easy dessert to go with any of these dishes and here is a summertime favorite!
Peach Cobbler
1 cup flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup butter or margarine
2 to 3 cups fresh sliced peaches
½ to 1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
Melt butter or margarine in a 9×9-inch baking pan. Peel and slice peaches into a pot, adding ½ to 1 cup sugar depending on sweetness. Heat until sugar is completely dissolved and remove from heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon almond extract if desired. Stir together the flour, sugar and baking powder, add the milk to make a soft dough. Pour dough mixture into pan and top with peach mixture. If it has made a lot of liquid, don’t use all the liquid. Bake at 350ºF for about 30 to 45 minutes or until done.
Peach Cobbler
1 large can of peaches, undrained*
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and melt 1 stick of butter or margarine in a 9×13 baking pan.
Pour a large can of peaches( juice and all )into the melted butter or margarine. (You use 2 cans, but drain one of them).
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Melt 1 stick of butter or margarine in a 9×13 baking pan.
Pour a large can of peaches, including juice into the melted butter or margarine. (You use 2 cans, but drain one of them). *It is also ok to use a can of pie filling. Peach is preferred, but I have had it served using apple, and at one time, in an ‘emergency’, my daughter used a couple of cans of fruit cocktail, different, but very delicious
Pour batter over the peaches and stir around enough to get batter into the corners of the pan; place in preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the batter has floated to the top and crusted over. (If the crust us not a little bit dry already the cinnamon/sugar mixture will just soak in.) Sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon/sugar and bake for another 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot or cold. Very good topped with ice cream!
Slow Cooker Peach Cobbler
2 cans peach pie filling
1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed
Put pie filling into slow cooker, top with cake mix, place butter cubes over cake mix and cook on high for 2 to 2½ hours.